Monday, July 13, 2009

Obon Festival in Little Tokyo

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to an Obon festival, "a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed spirit of one's ancestors" per Wikipedia. Sort of like El Dia de los Muertos in Mexican tradition. I've done that version of Day of the Dead many times at Self Help Graphics, so I had a sense of what to expect.

What a treat! This festival had more of a carnival feeling, with a ring toss game and kids walking around with gold fish swimming in plastic bags from winning the fishing game. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were serving up teriyaki and udon, and a White Elephant booth had random things for sale.

It was fun seeing teens and tweens wearing kimonos or happi coats with their Converse or Crocs. There was a very graceful dance celebration, with participants honoring their ancestors as they glided around an oval path with the musicians in the center.

And, instead of pan de muerto, there was dango, Okinawa-style donuts. Yum!!

I didn't grow up with any kind of tradition to honor the dead, other than occasional visits to the cemetery. I like these opportunities to see how cultures celebrate this inevitable part of all our lives.

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